By Alma Schneider
I grew up in a family of nine in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. We even had a neurotic dog named Smudge thrown in the mix. People can't fathom growing up that way. I am often asked how I survived and why I am so "normal."
Today, when people comment on my crazy life with four kids, running a music non-profit, a cooking blog and business, it's hard for me to explain why I am able to juggle so much, except to acknowledge that my mother's modeling provided an example that would teach me vitally important life skills and accompanying confidence that allowed me to take certain things in stride and manage a lot.
Mom: Lorraine Schneider, born Lorraine Levy, 5'2", 105 lbs for most of her life, Masters degree in audiology from the University of Michigan, raised seven children, eternal president of the PTA, 100% on every math regents ever taken in hometown of Laurelton, Queens, beautiful AND smart and never without a date on Friday nights in High School (according to her and verified 6 decades later by a fellow student from her High School.)
She also cooked a well-balanced meal every night for her family.
Not a big deal, you might say? Well, I took her family meals for granted for many years, but once I started having kids, I appreciated how much time and energy actually goes into meal planning: clipping coupons, buying food on sale, making time for shopping, shopping, making time for prepping the food, actually prepping the food, storing the food, cooking the food, serving the food, cleaning up the food and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Mind you, she did all of this in the seventies when convenience food was all the rage. Mind you, she did this even though she worked until 3 PM every day, wanting to be home when all the kids got home from school. Mind you, she even made an effort to stop at the new Korean market on E. 34th street on her way home from work to buy the novelty item, tofu, to prepare vegetarian meals for her vegetarian 13 year old (me.)
She just did it. Yeah, she yelled at me for not cleaning up my clothes and all, but she should have- I was a real slob. She never complained about cooking for us, however, because, although she never explicitly stated it, it was a given that she wanted us to be healthy.
"Everything in moderation" was her motto and she lived by it.
She was taken from us too soon to see how her modeling paid off with all of her healthy kids who are all foodies. Diagnosed with 4th stage non-smokers lung cancer (she hated smoking and smoke), she struggled valiantly with her chemo and positive attitude for five years until the cancer took over.
She was an awesome mom and I wish she were here so I could celebrate with her on Mother's day. I would give her favorite flowers, lilacs, and make her a delicious meal. Then I would massage her feet and back. She would have loved that.